AP: Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools

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By MARTHA IRVINE and ROBERT TANNER
The Associated Press
Sunday, October 21, 2007; 7:18 AM

-- The young teacher hung his head, avoiding eye contact. Yes, he had touched a fifth-grader's breast during recess. "I guess it was just lust of the flesh," he told his boss.

That got Gary C. Lindsey fired from his first teaching job in Oelwein, Iowa. But it didn't end his career. He taught for decades in Illinois and Iowa, fending off at least a half-dozen more abuse accusations.

When he finally surrendered his teaching license in 2004 _ 40 years after that first little girl came forward _ it wasn't a principal or a state agency that ended his career. It was one persistent victim and her parents.

Lindsey's case is just a small example of a widespread problem in American schools: sexual misconduct by the very teachers who are supposed to be nurturing the nation's children.

Students in America's schools are groped. They're raped. They're pursued, seduced and think they're in love.

An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.

There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work. Yet the number of abusive educators _ nearly three for every school day _ speaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked against victims.

Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes can't be proven, and many abusers have several victims.

And no one _ not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments _ has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.

Those are the findings of an AP investigation in which reporters sought disciplinary records in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The result is an unprecedented national look at the scope of sex offenses by educators _ the very definition of breach of trust.

The seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of the cases, and more than 80 percent of those were students. At least half the educators who were punished by their states also were convicted of crimes related to their misconduct.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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